Arkansas State Red Wolves Remove Deven Simms from the Team… So What Happens Now?

It was announced today that head coach Mike Balado has dismissed Deven Simms from the men’s basketball program. Here’s Balado’s statement on the matter.

I absolutely agree with coach. You try to build a culture, and if you really mean it then it becomes necessary to stick to your word and hold people accountable when they do things that go against the culture you are trying to create.

That said, dismissing a player the day before a game and less than a month before the end of the season strikes me as odd timing. I’m not sure if that’s more likely to suggest a “this is the last straw” type behavior or an egregious violation of protocol, but it’s a major absence nonetheless. Observe the table below

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Deven Simms’ Numbers
Stat Total Rank
MIN 736 2
FGA 308 1
FGM 146 1
3PA 80 3
3PM 30 3
FTA 120 1
FTM 88 1
FG% 0.474 2
FT% 0.733 3
3PT% 0.375 1
REB 145 1
ASST 43 4
STL 33 1

As you can see, Simms was the centerpiece of the team’s offense. He had more free throw makes than anyone else had attempts. You could count only his defensive rebounds and he would still nearly lead the team in overall rebounds. Sure he also led the team in turnovers, but at least some of that was pure volume of ballhandling time.

So a gap this big, how does it get filled? The Red Wolves have a couple options (and we have some slight idea after today’s mess down in Mobile). Obviously, the guard rotation will continue to be Ty Cockfield, Rashad Linsey and Marquis Eaton, in that order. There’s no reason to increase Eaton’s minutes at small forward when he was the fourth option until now.

The most frequent backcourt that the Red Wolves used without Simms on the floor – at least in the last three weeks – saw Grantham Gilliard remaining at small forward, Tristin Walley sliding into the power forward slot, and Salif Boudie coming on to play center. Similar to Eaton, I don’t think this will mean a big uptick in Jake Scoggins’ minutes necessarily, though it does move him up a notch and maybe some foul trouble or other situations get him on the floor more.

The most frequent lineup they’ve used overall though is for Tamas Bruce to play power forward with Walley at center. It’s hard to say how that lineup will work without Simms on the court, so all we have to go with is what took place last night in Mobile. The Wolves started Eaton at shooting guard but otherwise did as expected (Cockfield – Gilliard – Bruce – Walley) and… it did not go well.

Rodrick Sikes lit the Red Wolves up for 21 points in the first half, while the offense only managed to shoot 7-for-29 from the field. The 39-22 deficit could have been even worse had Connor Kern not hit a few threes and had Bruce not found his shot late in the half. The second half went more smoothly on offense, as Gilliard and Lindsey finally saw their shots start to fall, but they still opened the half missing eight of their first nine shots, so getting warmed up late mostly just meant crawling back to the 17-point deficit that started the half.

Sikes didn’t score in the last six minutes and still ended the night with 32 points. Josh Ajayi and Trae Mitchell chipped in another 21 and 13 respectively, and all that was enough to cruise comfortably to a win.

The Red Wolves’ offense eventually started to find a rhythm as the game wore on, which bodes well on that side of the ball (especially Bruce’s 13 points and 7 boards), and maybe this was the beginning of more everything from Connor Kern. But they had no answers on the defensive end, especially for Sikes’ three-point shooting or Ajayi down low. Arkansas State wasn’t about to win the Sun Belt conference this season, but they’ll have some figuring out to do if they want to keep the wheels from falling off this season.

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